Is there time for an interchangeable sensor DSLR?

Started Oct 19, 2012 | Discussions thread
Joseph S Wisniewski Forum Pro • Posts: 34,141
B&W and IR...

Tony Beach wrote:

I don't think its biggest value is price, although there would be some cost saving to buying another sensor instead of an entire new camera.  I think its biggest value would be to be able to carry multiple sensors and use them on one camera -- I would like B&W as well as IR to go with the current 36 MP BFA sensor.  Since we don't get B&W or IR cameras from Nikon, it seems to me that interchangeable sensors would make that more likely.

Now you're talking.

There's two parts to the answer. IR is never going to happen, and B&W is obsolete.

IR's the easy part, so let's address it first. It isn't part of the sensor, it's part of the filter in front of it. There were several P&S cameras that  could slide that filter out of the optical path for you. Then came what has come to be called "the Sony lesson". Citizens groups in the US and Europe raised a gigantic cry about the "x-ray" cameras that "perverts" could use to get a faint glimpse of our precious children's underwear, and the next thing you know, protestors were literally having demonstrations where they smashed or burnt Sony cameras in front of government buildings. No mainstream camera maker will ever make a camera with an easily removable IR filter, ever again. So, that pretty much settles the whole idea of Nikon or Canon making interchangeable sensor packs. Right now, doing an "IR conversion" involves huge amounts of effort: you dedicate a camera to IR, then tear it apart (dozens of screws, several fragile ribbon connectors) or pay someone $400 to do so. Imagine if you could have that done to a spare sensor cartridge, much easier, without dedicating a camera. This must never be allowed to happen.


One camera currently makes that filter removable, the number eleven maker, the smallest of the small, the fringe of the fringe: Sigma. Mad camera burning mothers never notice Sigma. They're so small, so hard to get (if you don't live in Tokyo or New York, your local store doesn't stock the SD1) that they're below the radar.

OK, a more serious, mainstream issue: B&W. It's obsolete. Not the art and craft of B&W, that's eternal and beautiful. The technology is obsolete. We did get a B&W camera from Nikon. It's called the D800. A 36mp D800 color shot, converted to B&W, outresolves an 18mp Leica M9M monochrome shot. Look at what Nokia did, a 40mp sensor in a phone camera. It doesn't deliver 40mp pictures, it delivers 8mp pictures, with the 40mp serving as "oversampling". That's the wave of the future. A 36mp color sensor, even with Bayer color filters and AA filter, extracts more information from the projected image than Leica's pure monochrome. But a 400mp sensor on an APS DSLR would extract everything that the lens had to offer. Oversample at 400mp, and knock it down to 100mp, either B&W or color, and you've got all the resolution you can expect from a real optical system (as opposed to a "synthetic" system like a stitched panorama).

That's the future. We will go 2-3x from 36mp DSLRs to 75 or 100mp, then another 2-3x, and another, until we're oversampling to the limits of the lenses. Maybe we'll stop there. Processors will also keep up, and pass the advances in sensors, so the days of needing a 12mp camera just to hit 10 frames/second are obsolete, too. Or maybe  Dr. Fossum is right, and we'll see 10s of gigapixels, counting photon strikes instead of converting charges.

In any case, we're moving in totally the opposite direction, towards sensors that can do more and more different missions, until we hit the point where one sensor  really does it all, and there's no need to change one out. The rest of the camera will have to match that sensor, as far as having enough processing speed for it, and AF system commensurate with the resolution, etc.

wizfaq interchangeable sensor

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Rahon Klavanian 1912-2008. Armenian genocide survivor, amazing cook, scrabble master, and loving grandmother. You will be missed. Ciao! Joseph

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